The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Business

January 25, 2010

Entrepreneur seeks algae-to-fuel conversion key

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) — And God said, “Let there be light: and there was light,” according to the Book of Genesis, although He might have added, “especially in South Texas.”

The Lower Rio Grande Valley is sunshine-rich, a major factor behind Brad Bartilson’s decision to relocate to Brownsville from New Jersey. Bartilson is not working on his tan. He’s president and CEO of Photon8, a start-up company researching economically feasible methods for turning algae into biodiesel as an alternative to fossil fuel. For algae to produce the oily “lipids” required for biodiesel, it’s got to be bombarded by sunlight — lots of it.

“From a photonic standpoint, New Jersey had 30 percent less photons per square meter falling than here,” Bartilson says.

Photons are the elementary particles that make light, thus the company’s name: Photon8. As it turns out, it takes eight photons to “fixate” one hydrocarbon molecule, something that has to happen in order for algae to make biodiesel. Seven won’t cut it. In addition to photons, Bartilson needed proximity to seawater and vast expanses of cheap land on which to build an algae farm. He found what he was looking for on a Realtors Web site.

“I looked at where could I find large tracts of land close to the ocean, and South Texas came up,” Bartilson says. “That was the start of my looking around down here.”

An associate tipped him off about the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, from which Photon8 recently received $1 million — another big incentive. Until the first ETF check arrived, Bartilson had to use his own savings to keep his team of researchers together. Plus, the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation stepped in with $300,000.

Bartilson’s core team members, each lured from outside Texas, are Dinesh Arora, the chief technology officer, Stephen Greer, an expert in algae genetics and chemical ecology, and Lance W. Riley, an expert in algae nutrients and growth system development. Students in varioud departments at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College are also taking part in the research.

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Business
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    February 19, 2010

  • Seminar to focus on employee management practices

    The Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce will present “The 3 Squares: Hiring, Firing and Retention” Seminar from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday at the Ben E. Keith Community Room, 2019 W. Oak St.

    February 19, 2010

  • Exxon Mobil posts lowest annual profit since ’02 EW YORK (AP) — Exxon Mobil’s earnings were cut by more than half to $19.3 billion in 2009, the lowest total in seven years, as company refineries struggled with a plunge in fuel consumption around the world.

    But the world’s largest publicly traded oil company remains the profit champ among U.S. public companies. Wal-Mart is expected to earn $14 billion for the year ended Jan. 31, and Microsoft earned $14.6 billion in the fiscal year ended in June 2009.

    Exxon’s results have swung with the price of oil and the impact of the global recession. When oil spiked above $147 a barrel in mid-2008, Exxon set ever-higher marks for earnings by a U.S. company. Then oil prices plummeted, and Exxon suffered a yearlong hangover that included its smallest quarterly earnings in several years.

    February 1, 2010

  • Toyota tells dealers parts on way to fix pedals WASHINGTON (AP) — Toyota Motor Corp. said Monday its dealers should get parts to fix a sticky gas pedal problem by the end of this week as the automaker apologized to customers and tried to bring an end to a recall that has affected 4.2 million vehicles worldwide.

    The company said in a statement that it has begun shipping parts and is training dealers on the repairs. Some dealers will stay open around the clock to fix the 2.3 million cars and trucks affected by the recall in the U.S.

    Technical bulletins on how to install the new parts should arrive at dealers by midweek, the company told dealers in an e-mail. It was not clear exactly when repairs would start, although dealers have said they’ll begin as soon as possible.

    The automaker also said Monday it would suspend production of eight U.S. models affected by the recall this week, with factories restarting on Feb. 8.

    February 1, 2010

  • Apple introduces new $499 iPad tablet computer SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the company’s much-anticipated iPad tablet computer Wednesday, calling it a new third category of mobile device that is neither smart phone nor laptop, but something in between.

    The iPad will start at $499, a price tag far below the $1,000 that some analysts were expecting. But Apple must still persuade recession-weary consumers who already have other devices to open their wallets yet again. Apple plans to begin selling the iPad in two months.

    Jobs said the device would be useful for reading books, playing games or watching video, describing it as “so much more intimate than a laptop and so much more capable than a smart phone.”

    January 28, 2010

  • Dealers swamped by worried Toyota drivers NEW YORK (AP) — Toyota dealers across the country were swamped with calls Wednesday from concerned drivers but had few answers a day after the company announced it would stop selling and building eight models because of faulty gas pedals.

    Toyota insisted the problem — sudden, uncontrolled acceleration — was “rare and infrequent” and said dealers should deal with customers “on a case-by-case basis.” But drivers of Toyotas and those who share the road with them were left with uncertainty.

    In an unprecedented move, the company said late Tuesday it would halt sales for the eight models — which make up more than half of Toyota’s U.S. sales volume — to fix the gas pedals. Last week, Toyota issued a recall for the same eight models, affecting 2.3 million vehicles.

    A private firm said it had identified 275 crashes and 18 deaths because of sudden, uncontrollable acceleration in Toyotas since 1999.

    In North Palm Beach, Fla., Clare Roden showed up at a Toyota dealership worried about the 2010 Camry she purchased recently. She was relieved when she was told her accelerator was not a problem part.

    January 28, 2010

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    The iPad, which is larger in size but similar in design to Apple’s popular iPhone, was billed by CEO Steve Jobs on Wednesday as “so much more intimate than a laptop and so much more capable than a smart phone.”

    January 27, 2010

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